Jacobite Gold – Sponsored by the Scottish Sun

Buried on the west coast of Scotland is a famous 18th century treasure hoard known as the ‘Treasure of Loch Arkaig’ or ‘Jacobite Gold’. Only one bag of gold coins has ever been recovered and nobody has located the bulk of this real life treasure. If recovered, it would be worth over ten million pounds, but the historical value would be priceless.

The story begins in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army was massacred at the Battle of Culloden near Inverness. Charlie fled to the Western Isles and before news of his defeat reached France, two frigates; the Bellona and Mars, were loaded with hundreds of casks of brandy, medical supplies, guns and ammunition, and hidden below were seven large wooden caskets containing the payroll for Charlie’s Jacobite army and funds for his rebellion – hundreds of bags of gold coins, amounting to 1’200’000 livres.

On the 10th of May 1746, the Bellona and Mars sailed into Loch nan Umah near Fort William on Scotland’s west coast and unloaded the treasure. It was then transported about 20 miles overland and buried somewhere near Loch Arkaig. In September 1746, Prince Charles and his most loyal Jacobite supporters finally escaped to France and Macpherson of Cluny, chief of Clan Macpherson, retained control of the treasure. He famously lived in exile in the Scottish highlands for nine years and spent much of his time hiding out at a mysterious location known as Cluny’s Cave.

While in France, Prince Charles became obsessed with securing his treasure in Scotland and in 1753, he sent Dr Archibald Cameron, a loyal supporter, back to Scotland on a covert mission, not only to secure the treasure, but help orchistrate an assassination plot to murder George II and the royal family. Dr Cameron based his treasure recovery project at Brenachyle, by Loch Katerine but he was eventually arrested and charged for his part in the 1745 Jacobite uprising. Dr Archbald was the last Jacobite to be executed in Scotland. Having researched most of the known historical texts and records pertaining to this treasure, I have derived four solid clues, pertaining to the location of the buried treasure.


Search Zones

A. Callich Burn

B.Glen Mallie / Kinlocharkaig

 

C. Arisaig

D. Cluny’s Cage

Clan Cameron archives record that before Dr Cameron was arrested, he and Alexander MacMillan of Glenpeanmore “hid the Prince’s gold at the Callich burn while Hanoverian troops were hot on their heels coming from Murlaggan private burial-ground where they hid it for a time among loose soil from a newly opened grave.” One of my researchers recently studied Parish records to determine who might have buried in this cemetary at the time of Dr Camerons arrest. This information will help identify which grave the treasure was temporarily hidden in, which in turn will help define Dr Cameron’s precise route from the Murlaggan burial-ground to the Callich burn.

 

Chambers History records a gathering of men in Glen Mallie at a burn near Kinlocharkaig, in which some of the treasure was hidden: “the time fixed for the rendezvous was altered to a week later, during which interval 15,000 of the louis d’ors were secretly buried in the wood on the south side of Loch Arkaig, about a mile and a half from the head of the loch, by Doctor Cameron, in the presence of Sir Stuart Thriepland, Major Kennedy, and Mr. Alexander MacLeod; and when the day at length arrived, only two hundred Camerons, a few MacLeans, a hundred. Divided into three parcels of 500 louis Dors each, two of which were buried in the ground and {the third placed under a rock in a small rivulet).” There are only three significant rivulets (burns) in Glen Mallie and the entire area around Kinlocharkaig could be explored in a day, with a sufficient number of treasure hunters.

 

In 2003 a fascinating letter was discovered in a secondhand shop in Winchester, Hampshire which was passed to the West Highland Museum in Fort William. It details the deathbed confession of Neill Iain Ruairi who claimed to have passed the loch when the treasure was being buried. Hiding in the trees, he waited and watched, and when the clansmen finally retreated he helped himself to a bag of gold coins. He was later injured in a riding accident and in his last breaths he whispered: “a bag of gold coins is buried near Arisaig, under a black stone, with a tree root springing from it.” Arisaig is located on the west coast and its beaches, fields and woods have never been methodically explored for the treasure.

 

 

For decades, hill walkers in Scotland have been confused by a cave marked on Ordinance Survey maps of Ben Alder. On maps, the cave is identified as ‘Prince Charlie’s Cave’ but nobody has ever found a cave at that location! Novelist Margaret Elphinstone, a lecturer in English studies at Strathclyde University, recently proposed a solution to this mystery concluding there never was a cave as is marked on maps. Ms Eliphinstone believes early mapmakers confused the word ‘cage’ for ‘cave’. She claims the maps mark the location of ‘Cluny’s Cage’ which would have been a crudely built refuge of the 18th chief of Clan Macpherson. The cage was said to have been located somewhere on the southern slopes of Ben Alder on the north western shore of Loch Ericht. Ms Elphinstone found a clue to this mystery encoded within Robert Louis Stevenson’s book ‘Kidnapped’ which supported her theory.

 

Knowing Stevenson borrowed heavily from Cluny’s younger brother’s account of the ‘Cage’, she searched the area and found rocks forming a natural fireplace, matching Stevenson’s description of the back of the cage in Kidnapped. Ms Elphinstone states “There are rocks slightly higher than the cave on the maps which almost exactly fit the near contemporary descriptions of Cluny’s Cage, although the vegetation has gone.” Cluny was the keeper of the the Jacobite gold when Charles Fled to France and it is known that Charles stayed with Cluny at his cage for some time. Atleast some of the treasure would have been stashed nearby for ease of access. First locate Cluny’s Cage, then determine a search zone around it. This is an extremely hazerdous location so please search with care.


The Scottish Sun Treasure Hunt

It is doubtful the gold coins and remaining supplies and munitions would have been buried along the actual shores of Loch Arkaig. More probably, a location would have been chosen which was sheltered from environmental variables such as storms and floods which could have washed the treasure away. It’s possible the stash was secreted in a cave nearby, possibly overlooking the loch. Caves are dry and sheltered and if the treasure was hidden in a cave, its precise location could be easily remembered and passed on. The chosen cave may also have served Prince Charlie as a temporary hiding place and headquarters of his operations. The least amount of transporting the treasure the better!

On the first night of this years treasure hunt our team will stay in a hotel in Spean Bridge where we will examine maps of the four search zones. We will systematically negate areas that are too high, too open and too wet to safely bury treasure. The following morning we visit the Clan Cameron Museum before exploring the landscapes and following the footsteps of the men who buried the treasure in the 18th century.

It’s possible the Jacobite supplies, including guns and ammunition, were buried along side the gold coins. If so, the mineralization and corrosion around the burial site will be easlier to locate than gold, which is possibly located deep underground. We will search for red/brown discolouration in soil and using metal detectors we will try to pin point large concentrations of iron. We will also search for small rusting iron objects, broken glass and bottle caps, pottery fragments, parts of flasks and wire, or anything else which might be a remnant from the hidden supplies or discarded items from the men who burried the treasure.

Any significant finds we make will immediately be reported to Treasure trove Scotland for two reasons. More information can be gathered from the environment surrounding an artifact, than directly from the artifact itself. And equally important, the best way to maximise on the wealth created with a find, is to follow the rules, or penalties will be applied to royalties.


External Resources:

Archaeologists hope to find missing French gold sent to Scotland to help fund a Jacobite Rebellion buried under a remote Highland beach.

The Sun Jacobtite Gold Feature

 

Culloden Battlefield field gold